FOXBOROUGH — The total of 15 catches may be a little high for Wes Welker, but isn’t totally out of whack. It is, after all, the fourth time he’s been in double-digits in catches this year.
What did catch the Jets off-guard was how the Patriots were employing him in certain spots. With Darrell Revis erasing Randy Moss from the game, New England went downfield with Welker more to fill the void and, in the process, got one past the Jets.
On a third-and-7 in the second quarter, Welker raced down the seam and Brady hit him deep on the right side for a 43-yard gain, getting the ball to the Jets 3 against a cover-3 look from the Jets defense.
“That broke his tendency,” Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. “He’s a horizontal runner. If you scout the Patriots, Wes Welker doesn’t run deep routes. It’s very rare. So they broke a tendency. You gotta play the odds sometimes. You got two great receivers next to each other, who would you check vertically? (Randy) Moss or Welker?”
When posed with the idea that, maybe, the Jets should’ve moved Revis over to cover Moss, Scott scoffed. “So take Revis off of Randy Moss and go to Wes Welker?” he asked.
Safety Jim Leonhard, courageously playing with a broken thumb that had three screws inserted earlier in the week, explained how Welker’s presence killed the Jets rush, which had been so effective in Week 2 with the slot receiver shelved.
“It’s tough, they do a great job of getting the ball out quickly when they have to,” Leonhard said. “They change the tempo, they’ll mix in a lot of that short passing game with a lot of downfield routes. They’ll start holding the ball a little bit, and if your pass rush isn’t getting there, it’s a tough day for the DBs. But I think we did a good job up front.
“We got some pressure there. It’s just we didn’t do our job on the back end. We gave up a lot of yards.”
Welker’s quickness and route-running ability is difficult to deal with, to be sure, but Leonhard said his doggedness makes him that much tougher to deal with.
“One thing he does is he never gives up on a route,” Leonhard said. “You could have him covered for four seconds but he’s still working, and if our pass rush isn’t getting there, you can’t hurry him out of that. With the type of short-range quickness that he has, it’s tough to cover him for an extended period of time.
“And Brady has that trust where he’ll get him the ball because he knows all he needs is that step. He’ll get that step of separation at some point.”
Meanwhile, Scott compared him to the only receiver who caught more balls last year — T.J. Houshmandzadeh, then a Bengal, now a Seahawk.
“Houshmandzadeh’s a route-runner, an option runner, runs away from leverage, able to change direction so if you jump one route, he can go to another route,” Scott said. Great slot receiver, and slot receivers can are usually guys that are able to run the route tree. Candle routes, dig routes, sit in holes in zones – Same as you see with Hines Ward, guy who comes off the ball that’s not a fast receiver but is able to find holes in zone because every zone has a hole.
“Tough to defend a guy like that, he’s gonna pass through zones and sit down in one.”
Here’s how good he’s been — Despite sitting out two games, Welker’s now leading the league with 79 catches. Pretty unbelievable.